Ah January, the time when a young winemaker’s fancy turns to… taxes. After three great months of concentrating on making the best wines possible we now shift gears and work on getting our books into the best shape possible before sending them off to the Accountant. I’ve told many people in the Tasting Room that winemaking is only about 20% of the job. Another 40% is running a small business (the other 40% is marketing and selling wine). Any small business will work you twice as hard as you expected before you began but running a winery is especially difficult because we deal in a controlled substance. This means lots of record keeping and forms to fill out each year. The first week of January we run a complete physical inventory that covers every drop of wine, piece of merchandise, or package of food. Everything has to be accounted for. Using the inventory we calculate the amount of Federal Excise Tax we need to pay (due 1/15), the amount of State Excise Tax (also the 15th), the State Sales Tax (1/31) and finally the State Usage Tax (also the 31st). In addition to the taxes we need to document every action taken in the winery during 2018 through TTB Form 5120.17 and BoE form 501-WG. Luckily we keep pretty complete records so most of this is just filling out the forms and making sure it all adds up in the end – still, it will take every minute of January to complete.
So all of the above is true but with one small caveat – we’ll definitely find the time to take care of the wines and even get a little bottling done. Our plan is to bottle the 2016 Grenache, 2017 Grenache Rose, and hopefully some of the 2017 whites before the end of the month.
For such a strange harvest season it actually turned out pretty terrific. All of the wines are safely in tank or barrel and all of the equipment has been cleaned, serviced, and put away for another year. With a few exceptions the wines are spectacular. We can’t wait to share the Grenache Blanc and Viognier with you, they truly are special. This year’s Syrah and Grenache are every bit as good and the Carignane – especially the Pamela’s Vineyard – is sure to be a must have, wine club only wine. We struggled a bit with having sone of our fruit contracts cancelled – we’re short on Roussannne and Petit Sirah – and the Mourvedre never really ripened. We have some work-arounds planned for this vintage and a plan to find more reliable vineyards for next year in the works.
There was a bit of bottling that we were supposed to get done last August but we ran out of tine so we’re attacking it this month with the hope of being back on track by the end of the year. Next up on the line: 2017 Aubade, 2017 Grenache Blanc, 2017 Viognier, 2017 Roussanne, and the 2017 Grenache Rose.
With the new year comes our rededication to education. We hope to have the wine symposium schedule for 2019 published in the next week or so. The goal is one class per month, every month except December when there’s just too much goinig on with the holidays to make it practical.
Next year’s goinog to be another busy one! Thanks for sticking with us as we continue to mature and grow, we TRULY appreciate your support.
This has been a really strange harvest season.
First it started late, and now I’ve been having trouble getting all of the fruit I was promised. I had two sources of Roussanne setup up for this season, each was supposed to provide one ton of grapes. The first source called on the day they picked to tell me there wasn’t enough to fill our order… would we care for some Marsanne instead? Marsanne is a terrific grape but without it’s blending partner, Roussanne, it’s not very useful. I said “yes” anyway because we need something for the 2018 Aubade, even though it’s not my first (or even second) choice. It didn’t matter since a couple of hours later I got a call saying “not enough Marsanne either”. Well, now what? Luckily my second source didn’t cancel on me and we have enough Roussanne for the blend, just not enough for a 2018 Roussanne single varietal.
The cool summer has also led to low brix, or sugar, numbers on some of the other fruit. The Mourvedre ended at 20 brix when we needed at least 23 brix for a stand-alone wine. At 20 brix you get about an 11% alcohol wine – luckily we need it mostly for the 2018 Serenade, a GSM blend, where it’s job is to brighten up the Syrah and Grenache. Following a trend, the Grenache blanc is looking like it will end at 22 brix, also a little light for the stand-alone wine. I saw this coming and the other wines that blend with it for the 2018 Aubade are a little bigger than I would normally like. Put them together with the light Grenache blanc and we should have perfection.
So, are there any bright spots to this harvest? Yes! The fruit this year is beautiful, acids are still there, and pH’s are lower than usual. This is perfect for the kind of wines we all enjoy. Also, the ancient vines Carignane is looking perfect. We’ll definitely have a single variety 2018 Carignane in our future. In the end, it’s all farming. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but mostly it all works out. One thing about winemaking, it’s never boring!
Harvest finally began! Normally we’d be busy from the first week of September on but this year we didn’t get our first grapes until near the end of the month. In fact it got so bad we needed to slide our “hands-on” Boutique Winemaking class into October because we had no fruit to put in our hands. That’s all changed now and we’re busy fermenting the 2018 Grenache and Syrah. Viognier is already done and in the tank and we’re anxiously awaiting the next load of grapes. The climate is a little strange this year but we hope to still bring in Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Carignane, and Mourvedre. There’ll probably also be a little Cabernet Sauvignon in the near future so we can continue to make our popular “Stage Right”.
We have one more class on the 2018 schedule, Candlemaking, which we’ll hold on the night of Thursday, October 18th. The cost is $45 and tickets are available at our online wine shop or in the Tasting Room. In this class you’ll learn how to make professional, long lasting candles from a selection of seasonal and holiday scents. Come enjoy the class and take home a candle for yourself or as a present for a friend.
Being open on weekdays has turned out to be our favorite part of the week. We offer a different, La Vie Dansante Wines-centric tasting list. The smaller weekday crowds give us time for one-on-one conversations about wine, wine making and grapes or whatever catches your fancy. Come join us for a wine tasting in a relaxed vineyard atmosphere.
Whelp, it’s September and here we sit waiting for grapes. Normally by now this place is a beehive of activity. Fruit, starting with Viognier, begins landing during the first week of September and then really gets going with the Grenache and Syrah two weeks later. Unfortunately this has been a really cool summer – yes, I know there were our normal unbearably hot days in July and August, but overall we had quite a bit fewer of what we call “degree days”. Grapes ripen in two ways; first, sunlight brings flavor, and second, heat brings sugars. We’ve had great sunlight so we’re confident we’ll have exceptional flavors the year, the problem is the lack of heat. Grapes will ripen about 1% of sugar for every week that averages over 85 degrees. We want to harvest at about 24% sugar and we’re currently sitting at about 20%. That means we need about four more weeks of good heat, and we’re just not getting it this year. Don’t panic though. It’s farming and everything could change tomorrow. In the end everything will turn out ok, it’s just the impatient waiting that’s killing us.
We have two more movies in our fall series, “Airplane!” on the 14th and “Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery” on the 28th. These movie nights are turning out to be a lot of fun so don’t miss out on the last two of the season. “Curtain” will be about 7:45. There’s no admission charge and we provide the popcorn. You should bring a camping or beach chair (we have chairs but ours aren’t very comfortable), a jacket and/or blankets, and snacks if you want them. 21 and over only, no pets, and no outside alcohol please. Support your local winemaker and drink local.
There’s also two classes remaining in the summer series, “Boutique” winemaking on the 20th of September, and “Candle Making” on October 18th. Both classes are $45 per person but wine club discounts apply. You’ll receive a fascinating lecture, 2 glasses of wine, and in the case of the Candle Making class, your very own candle to take home with you. Tickets are available at our online wine shop or in the Tasting Room.
Can you believe we’re already in the last half of the summer? For us that means it’s time to start thinking about harvest – and the feelings of anxiety and panic that go with it. It’s still a little early to start cleaning and actually preparing for grapes so there’s not a lot for us to do besides sit around worrying. Worrying about grapes – are my growers going to come through with what I need (and how in the world will we pay for them)? Worry about supplies – yeast, tannins, acid, cleaners, etc. Worry about staffing – will we have people to help process the fruit? Worry about events – Harvest Party, Passport, Movie Nights, Classes. For us August is the most stressful time of the year. You can see all the work coming but there’s nothing you can do to get a head start! But don’t panic. By next month everything will fall into place, it always does, and we’ll be happily working to produce the sixth (!) vintage of La Vie Dansante Wines.
We’ve really started to up our events games with movie nights – The Princess Bride and Top Gun – and classes – Wines of the Rhone; Our Inspiration – this month. We have our first Harvest Party scheduled for early next month which means lots of recipe testing and preparation in August. We’ve also tried to step up our Tasting Room experience during the week. Traffic is still slow but it’s starting to build and we want to be sure our guests have a fantastic visit when they stop by mid-week.
It’s a busy time, but it’s an exciting time. We feel like kids and it’s only six weeks until Christmas!
Happy 4th of July everyone! Can you believe the year is half over? It doesn’t seem possible but the growing grape clusters and the fact I just closed fiscal week 26 in the books say it must be so. There’s lots going on around the winery these days as we settle into being open five days a week. Thanks to all of you wonderful people who enjoy our wines and like to come hang out with us we continue to grow and expand. I firmly believe a “real” winery is open at least every weekend and preferably all seven days. I knew moving to five days a week would be a bit taxing on my time but the payoff is a little extra business and the ability to connect one-on-one with our weekday guests. It’s definitely been a win for us so now I’m starting to think about how to be open those other two days. What does all of this mean? La Vie Dansante Wines is looking to hire our first (paid) employee. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I know it has to happen. I’m currently writing the job description which will include working in the Tasting Room and driving our Social Media campaigns. If you know anybody looking for a part time, low paying, hard working position in a beautiful location let me know.
As part of being a “real” winery I’m re-committing (is that even a word) to our events calendar. Look for more info on the “Events” tab of this website and on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We’re finally going to begin those movie nights and wine classes. We’re also looking forward to hosting a couple candle making classes this fall.
Saturday, September 8th from 6 to 9pm will be La Vie Dansante Wine’s first Harvest Party! We have a fantastic band lined up, Eric Stone from Destin Florida, harvest games, and lots of food planned. The party coincides with our Fall Wine Club release so members will receive two complimentary tickets and have the ability to purchase discounted tickets for their friends – better yet, get your friends to join and they’ll get their own free tickets and I’ll increase your member discount by 5% for the next 12 months (up to a maximum of 15% total increase per year).
Lots of exciting things in the works so watch for the emails. Which reminds me… Wine Club members, did you know you can add additional email addresses to your account so everyone can be in the loop? Just drop me a note at “info@LaVieDansanteWines.com” with the address you’d like to add.
Time to get at it. Happy Fourth everybody, stay safe and have a great holiday.
A strange thing is happening inside the winery building… for the first time since we started this wild ride we seem to be caught up on winemaking tasks! The 2015 reds will be in bottle in the next two weeks, the 2016 rough blending will (probably) be done by the end of the month. Racking is complete on the 2017’s. We’re even starting to think about filtering and bottling the 2017 whites! Probably the best indication of this new level of organization is that I’ve been able to spend a couple of hours a day for the past week or so catching up on my magazine reading.
I subscribe to four magazines – “Wines and Vines”, “Wine Business Monthly”, “Wine Spectator”, and “Wine Enthusiast” – that help keep my head in the game as far as continually increasing wine quality and the guest experience in our Tasting Room. Unfortunately, for the past several years reading magazines has fallen to the bottom of the priority list. When I finally found time to attack the pile of past issues I discovered magazines dated April 2015! Anybody care about the 2014 California Crush Report? Me neither so my first task was to go through all of those back issues and tear out the interesting or still pertinent articles – a much more approachable task!
Now that we have a handle on the winemaking we’re turning our eye towards the Tasting Room, finishing some outstanding projects and working on the event calendar. I feel like we’ve made great strides in providing a fun, educational wine tasting experience but then I look around and see all of the progress other wineries have made and I know we need to continue to innovate and improve. It’s not really a competition and I’m honestly proud to be a part of our fellow Santa Clara Wineries and what we’ve become in just a few short years – but I still want to win!
So, until next month… time to get back to work!
In my daydreams May is the first of the “slack” months of summer, a time to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy some time off before harvest. By this time of the year all of the spring winery-related activities – Racking, Bottling, Event Planning, etc – have been finished. Unfortunately this is just a daydream, the life of a young winery is a much different reality! We’ve made great progress, all of wine work is current and things are looking good. The spring bottling is pretty much done (shout out to Ruth and Jeff for their many hours of help!). Only three lots left to get into the bottle; Serenade (the successor to Prelude), Nocturne (the new darker red cuvée), and an LVD Wine Co Zinfandel. We’re just waiting on the labels to be printed and then we’ll get those three in bottle and be done with this year’s wines. Of course then we’ll need to get busy on blending the 2016 reds. If we can get that done in June we’ll be “caught up” for the first time…ever.
We’ve pretty much finished up the spring wine walk season with only the South Valley Wine Auction on the 11th remaining. Each year we try to do about four wine walks, two because they’re in our neighborhood (Gilroy and Morgan Hill), and two more to extend our reach into new areas. We’ve been moving northward, Campbell, Willow Glen, Saratoga but recently I’ve been thinking we need to look southward more – Hollister is happening y’all. Sadly we came to this realization on the exact day – last Saturday – that Hollister was holding it’s annual wine walk. Oh well, next year for sure.
The biggest thing we’re trying to catch up on is the overall events calendar. We’ve been promising classes, music, movie nights, etc but haven’t been really good on following through. We’re working hard this week to get all those dates figured out and people/space reserved. Look for a newsletter coming out next week that has the full plan for the rest of the summer. Another thing that will be in the newsletter is the announcement of our next Wine Club release which will be on June 9th. We’re a little thin on details right now but the newsletter should have all the info you’ll need.
The last big news for this month is that the Spring Rosé, our 2016 Rosé of Mourvedre will be released on Mother’s day weekend. This is a crisp, clean Rosé perfect for enjoying during a lazy afternoon around the pool. It’s low(er) alcohol, only 12%, and sells for $24 a bottle ($19.20 for Wine Club members). We have less than 50 cases and expect it to sell out quickly so stop by soon and pick up your summer case.
The big news for April is the formation of a new group supporting the resurgence of Rhone varietals here in Santa Clara County. La Vie Dansante Wines is very proud to be a Charter Member of the GSM Rhone Society which also features Sarah’s Vineyard, Aver Family Wines, and Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery. Normally “GSM”, when it pertains to wine, means “Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre”, a common blend in the south of the Rhone Valley. In this case “GSM” stands for “Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill”. Yeah, we think we’re pretty clever.
The GSM Rhone Society was formed as a mutual support society for wineries who are actively pushing the resurgence of Rhone grapes and wines in our valley. To be a member the focus of your vineyard or winery must be on the Rhone grapes and wines we make from them. You must also be actively promoting the varietals and those other wineries that make them. Basically you can be a member if when people think of your winery they immediately. There is also some talk of establishing a “quality mark” similar to the embossed keys you see on bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape or the rooster you find on bottle of Chianti.
Watch for the GSM Launch Party being held on at 5:30pm Wednesday April 25th at The Grapevine on Depot Street in downtown Morgan Hill. You’ll have a chance to meet all four winemakers and sample locally produced Rhone-style wines.
In the winery we’re crazy busy bottling wines to be released this fall. So far we’ve finished a Mourvèdre Rosé, the 2016 Roussanne, the 2015 Syrah, a bunch more Stage Right, and a little Chardonnay (for a friend). Still to go are the 2015 Serenade, the 2015 Nocturne, and possibly a little 2015 Zinfandel (under the LVD Wine Co label). This is also the time of year when we start talking to all of our Vineyard Managers, trying to pin down some prices and commitments on grapes. We’ve got our 2018 Production Plan all worked out but right now it’s just words on paper – time to start turning it into reality.
In the February News post we mentioned a “big announcement” for March. Well, here it is… Beginning March 4th La Vie Dansante Wines will be open for Tasting five days a week from noon to 5pm. That’s right, you’ll be able to stop by and enjoy a glass or two of wine from Thursday through Monday. We’ll be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday to allow us some time to get the rest of our projects done around the winery and hopefully enjoy a little down time. If all goes well we plan to hire a part time server to assist us later this summer and we’ll be able to be open daily.
But wait, there’s more! During Passport weekend – March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th – we’ll be releasing La Vie Dansante’s Barrel Aged Syrah and Champagne vinegars. Both of these are hand-crafted in the premium Orleans method and then allowed to age for a year in oak – new french for the Syrah, and neutral french for the Champagne. As lovers of anything pickled we have to say these are going be amazing in pickles, a vinaigrette, or just plain on veggies.
Also happening in March is the La Vie Dansante Wines Spring Wine Club release party which will be held March 17th from 1pm to 4pm. Yes, that’s St Patrick’s Day, and No, we won’t be coloring the wine green. The 17th will be the release of La Vie Dansante’s first every Viognier. We were coerced into opening a bottle last week and it is simply delicious. We’re planning to have food and some live music so be sure to join us for this fun event.
On the winemaking front we have a ton of bottling to do. Basically, all of the 2015 Reds, the 2016 Roussanne, the 2017 Rose, more Stage Right, and even a little Chardonnay for a friend. Anybody interested in working on the bottling line (it pays Pizza and wine) drop a note to Jeff at Jeff@LaVieDansanteWines.com – we can always use another pair of hands.
When I was first thinking about starting up a winery we thought “what a great job, you work hard from March through December and then you get to take three months off”. Boy, were we wrong. Really wrong. We sat down at the beginning of February and put together a detailed project list for the upcoming year. Everything from finishing the Tasting Room to creating an entertainment calendar. I wanted to capture ALL of the upcoming projects so that nothing could slip through the cracks. Well, two problems; first, we did a GREAT job on the list – something like 125 projects – second, all of the projects seem to have a due date of “Before the first of March”. Why? Check out the News for March and see our big announcement.
So this month, after a bunch of organizational stuff, boils down to a ton of physical labor. We plan to completely dismantle and refinish all of the picnic tables, complete the small patch of pavers in front of the Tasting Room, finish the gaming area, make food and soft drinks available in the Tasting Room. Then there’s the winemaking stuff; a vineyard to prune, wines to blend, vinegar to bottle, labels to design an get approved… you get the idea. What we thought was going to be an “easy” month turns out to be 12 hour days, seven days a week to get ready for our big season!
Welcome to a brand new year! We’re back from a few days of relaxation and we’re ready to go.
January, at least the first part of it, is all about administrative stuff. Taxes – Federal and State Excise, State Sales, and State Usage – are all due this month as is all of our reporting to the government about the amount of wine we produced, sold, and consumed. Later this month we’ll sit down and go over the numbers and if it’s anything like last year it will resemble the four stages of grief: Denial – there’s no way we drank that much. Anger – How could you let me drink all the profits? Bargaining – Can I say we donated a bunch to charities to hide the loss from the accountant? Finally, Acceptance – Ok, what’s done is done we’ll just have to work harder this year (and not drink our own wine!).
This is also the time of year we put together our operational calendar – what we’ll be doing at the winery (or offsite) every weekend between now and the Holidays. Working and pouring at Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio makes this both more important and more difficult than it could be – there are two other wineries to deconflict with for Wine Club releases and such. Beyond the Wine Club there are Wine Walks and Strolls, Winemaker Dinners, Music, and classes to consider. It’s only the third day of the year and I already feel like we’re a month behind!
Finally (probably not, but I’m running out of space), there’s the Facilities work to consider. Last month we prepped the picnic area and seeded grass. Now the first rains have come and all of the gophers have emerged from wherever gophers go to celebrate their gopher holidays so we need to arms ourselves for the upcoming “battle of the grass”. So far we’re losing a bit, it’s 1 gopher caught, and 2 that got away. We’ll keep you posted on the results. One sure way to wine against the gophers is to lay down concrete pavers. The first load of what is supposed to be 15 tons (roughly 2,000 sqft) arrived last week and the next load is due this week. Our plan is to put down pavers on the approach to the Tasting Room, in the Outdoor Tasting Area, on the way to the Restrooms, and to build an area around the palm tree with a firepit and benches… right on top of that damned gopher that evaded me twice today.
Oh, and there’s that winemaking thing to do. I guess I best get at it!